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The Monochrome Effect

Somanth Bothe says the quiet rustic beauty of the Paithan countryside, the quintessential sights and daily goings-on of villages and settlements along the Godavari river are intrinsic to his awe-inspiring art
Text: Team Art Soul Life

Born in Paithan in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, Somnath Bothe says creating art was part of his being and came as natural to him as breathing. “Art was a way of engaging with the world around me. For me, art is a way of living and attempting to make sense of the chaotic events in my life. It is my favourite way to communicate,” he says. Throughout his life, Bothe says he’s had a pencil or brush in his hand. “I don’t think I’ve ever thought of doing anything else. During my high school, I even took up a part-time job of painting signboards, banners etc. All I can say is painting is something I’ve been doing all my life – since I was about 5 or 6,” he says, adding, “When I draw or paint, I’m deeply concentrating. It’s a kind of flow-state or mental focus that I find super exciting and exhilarating. I haven’t found anything else like it.” Bothe says being an Indian and that too from a family that believes in God, he was always surrounded by pictures and idols of gods and goddesses. “I used to draw at least one picture of God every day. Sometimes I used to draw it on paper, sometimes on the wall. And then I started drawing it on the big walls of a temple in our town,” he says. However, coming from a humble background, finances was always a big issue to pursue his dream. “It was overwhelming for me to live in the city, so for survival, I took up a part-time job of an artist in a local advertising agency. But I never wavered from my goal which was learning art skills. So in that busy schedule, I used to take time off for going out and doing portraits, sketches, landscapes and all other things,” he informs.

Bothe started his art journey with landscapes and portraits. But as his entire childhood was spent in the village, he always had a very close relationship with rural life. “As a child, most of my toys were earthen objects and this connection with the earth was to be a continuous source of inspiration for me,” he says. “Further, education and living in the city created new sensitivities and understandings. The blend of these different environments and cultures indirectly flowed into my work.” He says the college library opened the doors for him to the vast world of art through books and paintings. “I came across a book about the famous landscape painter J.M.W. Turner. His work touched a chord in me. His palette, subject matter and spontaneous style inspired me,” he informs. “My soul yearned to follow in his footsteps and develop my own style.” The play of light and shade in nature had always appealed to him, he says, and he felt that painting was nothing but trying to capture nature’s melodies in colours, light and shadows. “I consider myself to be a ‘realist’ but I do not try to imitate or copy nature. I paint objects as patches of colour, but the forms are abstract. To me, this abstraction is creativity. Nature provides me with inspiration to express my inner vision, which I feel is art. The artist in me derives immense satisfaction when I paint this way,” he reasons.

Bothe, who has mainly worked with acrylic, says it allows him to add layers and textures to his artwork, enhancing glossiness and giving it depth. “I use charcoal also, which is an excellent medium, but it could be challenging. Charcoal can be used to style drawings, or with a more detailed technique suited to naturalistic art. In my paintings, charcoal stands on its own as a genre of art and acrylic paints are often seen in a supporting role to establish an impact,” he informs. Talking of his penchant for iconic locations in India, especially Banaras Ghats as his subject matter, Hore says it could be because of Paithan where he spent his childhood. “My art is influenced and inspired by its culture. The quiet rustic beauty of the countryside, the quintessential sights and daily goings-on of villages and settlements along the Godavari River and local trees, flowers and birds are intrinsic to my art,” he says. Bothe says the same is true for the sacred city of Banaras and its atmospheric Ghats. “The mystical beauty of the holy Ganga and the throng of humanity on its banks come alive in my works. The multitude of bathers and pilgrims, the boatmen, the colourful sadhus, children and the rituals and pageantry all come to life in my paintings,” he explains.    

Bothe says he has always tried to showcase Banaras, one of the most visited holy places on earth as diligently as possible. “You could say I have captured the beauty of the city with a microscopic eye, bringing for viewers the gentle waters of the Ganga, the boat rides, the morning worships at sunrise, the evening aartis, the high banks of the ancient ghats, the array of shrines, the myriad temple spires, the palaces at water’s edge, the ashrams, the pavilions and the palm and cane parasols,” he says. Looking at his Banaras paintings, you are driven through the enigmatic voyage of peacefulness and spirituality. The chanting of mantras, the fragrance of incense, the smoke of lamps, the devotional hymns – all slowly come to you. An atmospheric aura is formulated that fills the air with devotion. “By offering this mystifying experience, I proficiently transcend the beholder from this world to the divine world,” he says. “With brush and paint, I build an imaginative alley for the viewer to allow him to walk inside the frame. The appealing picturesque beauty, the grandiosity and the vastness produced, takes him on a sublime journey.” So the viewer no longer remains just the spectator, instead he becomes the member of the picture. “He is automatically absorbed and thus instinctively becomes part of the entire painted scenario. This is how I successfully create an intricate connection between the watcher and the work of art,” Bothe explains. 

Another of his favourite subjects is rain. “Monsoons always bring a smile on everyone’s face in our country. There is inspiration in every bit of the first shower. Nature’s muse is a call to the creative – the poet with his words, the painter with his canvas and the musician with his notes,” he says. Bothe says since he’s a farmer’s son, monsoon has a close connection with him. “I believe that monsoon is the best season as we can’t think of our lives without water. During the monsoon, I feel happy. When I feel happy, all I want to do is paint. Somewhere that also automatically reflects in my work and it ensures a blend of imagination and creativity in my works.” Currently, he’s working on a Banaras Sadhu series. “When I was in Banaras for a study on Banaras Ghats and the history behind them, I saw all sorts of sadhus on the ghats and the surrounding areas. Colourful attire, different lifestyle and uniqueness of each sadhu inspired me to continue my Banaras Ghat series to Banaras Sadhu paintings,” he explains. To Bothe, sadhus seem exceptional than common men due to their long meditation and sadhanas, which creates a halo effect. “Keeping in mind the aura of these sadhus, I have started creating my own textural quality in vibrant colours as a new creation,” he says. “In my earlier Banaras Ghat series, a ghat was the heart of the painting, while the sadhus were diffused. Now I have started exploring sadhus with their colourful lifestyle in abstraction forms, different textural quality, vibrant colours and a foggy effect on the beard.”

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